The Telangana government hosted a rockstar reception for badminton ace PV Sindhu and mentor Pullela Gopichand on Monday, a grand event in every way save for the deputy chief minister’s remark that she may be provided a “better coach”.
Wearing her Rio Olympics silver medal around her neck, the 21-year old along with Gopichand and her parents, PV Ramana and Vijaya, came to GMC Balayogi Stadium on an open-top double-decker bus. “Winning a medal at the Olympics was my dream,” Sindhu said and attributed her success to her guru, Gopichand.
“I was thrilled to see thousands of people, young and old, lining up on the road from the airport to the stadium to greet me. It was a great feeling.”
Deputy CM Mohammad Mahmood Ali may not have the kind of faith in Gopichand that the first Indian woman to win an Olympic silver medal has in her coach.
“We have plans to provide her a better coach,” he said on the sidelines of the reception.
However, he also mentioned that coach Gopichand is equally good.
Gopichand is one of India’s finest shuttlers and only the second player from the country to win the prestigious All England Championships, considered the holy grail of badminton.
The Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad, which he is running after retiring from active sport, has been producing an assembly line of top-class players, including 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal and K Srikanth, a quarterfinalist in Rio de Janeiro.
It was not clear if deputy chief minister Ali really meant providing a better coach to Sindhu or was talking about better coaching, but his comments triggered outrage, with social media users wondering “when will politicians talk sense”.
A Twitter user posted politicians “will make sure she does not even qualify. Did Sindhu ever say she needs a better coach?”
Sindhu put the controversy to rest when she gave Gopichand the credit for her success.
The felicitation function at the stadium was dominated by politicians, though a large number of Sindhu’s co-players from the academy, her college friends and teachers were present.
After the cursory congratulations to the Olympian, the political speeches were confined to praising Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao for encouraging sports and providing cash incentives to Sindhu and Gopichand.
For her part, Sindhu said it was very tough to stage a comeback from her foot injury she had suffered last year and regain strength to play in the Olympics. She thanked her physio and support staff.
“My plan was to play one game at a time and thanks to the support and motivation from the coach, I could win them and finally the medal. It was my dream and it came true,” said the first-time Olympian.
Gopichand was proud of his prodigy, saying she has good genes.
“Her parents made a lot of sacrifices for her. Her mother, Vijaya, resigned from her job and father Ramana applied leave for two months to bring Sindhu to the academy every day at 4.15am. Such dedication and hard work is needed if parents want their children to come up like Sindhu.”
Father PV Ramana, an Arjuna awardee, and mother P Vijaya played volleyball.
Gopichand is optimistic about one of his wards bringing the gold medal for the country in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, though he admits it will be a tough task.
“Sindhu has age on her side. Besides, we have a bunch of girls in the academy who have told me 2020 belongs to them. Hopefully, they would motivate one another and achieve the goal,” he said.